Yes, it was an air show complete with rolls and dives and upside-down flying. But more than that it was air races where planes chased each other around a marked course no differently than what cars might on the ground.
Over the two days the show/race was held, organizers say close to 20,000 people came out to this one-time military airbase on the outskirts of Wendover, two hours from downtown Salt Lake City, and watched.Which all means that now, proven that people will pay to see planes race, and that planes can race, the airborne racing circuit can be expanded to double its current size, or to two races.
Before the Utah event there was but one air racing show in the country each year - the Reno Air Show and Races held in September.
"We've proven, now, that people will come to the races and that this is a great place to hold a race," said Neal Gunnarson, one of organizers. "Now we want to make this an annual event."
And it should be, that according to some of the leading racers flying in the event. The area is ideal, they said. It's open, flat, has the old airport to work from, and there are no homes to worry about.
In Reno, despite its reputation, the course is tight, one pilot pointed out, almost too tight for the faster unlimited planes, and too small for the jets. A part of Reno, he said, must be evacuated during racing hours for safety reasons.
In the first running of the AT-6s, training planes during World War II, Nick Macy of Tulelake, Calif., averaging slightly over 192 miles per hour over the six-mile course.
In the afternoon race, Van Fossen hit the invisible finish line first in a plane, he said, an SNJ-4, that passed from the U.S. Marines, to the Honduran Air Force, and eventually to his hanger.
In the faster unlimited class, California pilot John Malony was first in a modified Corsair. After trailing Park City's Gary Levitz for two laps, he found the right line and easly won, averaging close to 340 mph on the nine-mile course. Dennis Sanders, also out of California, was third flying an old British Sea Fury. Levitz was flying a modified P-51 Mustang.
For the first time in over 20 years, jets took to the race course. The field of four was cut to three when one encountered mechanical problems once airborne.
Flying a T-37, Salt Lake's Rick Brickert, although losing the lead for about half a lap to Sanders, held on at the finish to win by a dozen or so lengths, or in jet time about a second.